Israel-Palestine: A two-state solution strategy.
Any permanent peace proposal between Israel and the Palestinians which establishes a new Palestinian state will have to accomplish two things: 1) meet Israel’s security needs and, 2) offer tangible economic benefits to all segments of Palestinian society. The former will require some exchange of land, the latter economic interdependence with Israel and international capital in order to provide for upgrading the Palestinian infrastructure and for capital investment. Both sides will have to give more than they’d like in order to resolve the seemingly irresolvable problem of East Jerusalem, including the Old City with its many religious sites.
Core territorial changes are obvious: widen the narrow “girdle” of Israel and provide for a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. I am viewing East Jerusalem as a separate issue. Israel might have to give up total over the Old City of Jerusalem. And the Palestinians will have to bend on redrawing the map to allow for the oldest and largest of the settlements in pre-1967 East Jerusalem. Neve Yaacov, and its thirty thousand residents, many of who have lived their entire lives in family owned apartments, is an example.
Economic interdependence can begin with Israel’s highly developed and successful high tech industries. Subcontracting many of the more labor intensive aspects of both manufacturing and even development is possible. Many Palestinians both in the Middle-East and overseas are in engineering and Information Technology. Ironically, Palestinians working in other Arab countries are often called “The Jews of the Arab world.” There are many other industries that could similarly produce economic integration. Tourism is an obvious source of income, especially so if peace engulfs the area. It would be possible to work out joint religious tours that would benefit both peoples. For example a Christian tour that includes Nazareth, the Stations of the Cross along Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Resurrection (Calvary) and Bethlehem would cross borders between Israel and the new Palestinian state. It behooves all for access to all of these sites to be seamless. A religious corridor, encompassing all of the approximately six miles between them, could be established under a joint security arrangement. Bethlehem, itself, would reside in the Palestinian state. Besides the usual tourist cottage industries, new tourist-friendly attractions could provide substantial new income. Indeed, the possibility of increasing Jewish tourism to Bethlehem is easy to envisage, with the surroundings to Rachel’s tomb and David’s activities there enhanced. Tourism already is a key source of income to Bethlehemites, but that tourism, after the establishment of a new state, undoubtedly would be substantially increased under my plan. A one-time access permit fee, for all of the religious sites, of, say, $250 a person, split equally, could provide needed revenue. Other functionally similar tours can be constructed, though the sites of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock would not require a permit to gain access because of regular religious use considerations.
Perhaps the greatest boon for economic integration would be the development of a jointly maintained world class deep-water port that would provide large shipping access to and from the European markets and which could be maintained as a duty-free area. The natural harbor at Ashdod lends itself to such a port. Already the Port of Ashdod accounts for well over half of Israel’s imports. To give up part control of an enlarged Port there would be politically unfathomable to most Israelis. But there will have to be some considerable quid pro quo for maintaining Israeli control over the older and larger Israeli towns in East Jerusalem.
The United Nations partition of Palestine originally called for internationalizing the Old City of Jerusalem. This would not be acceptable to either side now, more than sixty-five years later. But it could become the model for treating the Old City as a jointly ruled area, with Israeli police controlling the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall (Western Wall), Muslim control over the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque of Omar, and joint patrols over the remaining parts of the Old City.
There are many other specific problems that must be addressed. For example, Jenin, the outgrowth of a refugee camp, has been home to some of the most persistent and violent militants in the West Bank. It lays just north and east of the small “girdle” of Israel that is only 15 km wide at its narrowest point. Near that “girdle” lays the area of greater Netanya, home to over 330,000 people and countless numbers of tourists going to their popular beaches. Until 1967, Jenin was under control of Jordan. Israel took control following the six-day war. In 1992, as part of the Oslo Agreements, Israel turned over control of Jenin to the Palestinian Authority. Nevertheless, deadly attacks on religious and other structures in Israel close to greater Netanya were commonplace until the building of the Wall, which likely will come down with the establishment of a new Palestinian state. When the U.N. established Israel in 1945, Jenin City had a population of under four thousand. Today it is close to ten times as large. The refugee camp alone has ten thousand souls, nearly half of which are teenagers who have grown up hating Israel and are mostly sympathetic to militant Islamism. The camp will have to be dismantled with work or college available to all of its youth. Similarly, most new Israeli settlement towns beyond the region of East Jerusalem, some populated by fervent religious nationalists, will have to come down and the populations of them resettled out of the Palestinian state’s West Bank territory.
A few of the post-1967 Israeli settlements pose difficult problems because of religious historical considerations. As an example, just outside the Palestinian metropolis of Hebron, in Hebron’s Old City, resides the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is also called the biblical Cave of Machpela and the Ibrahimi Mosque, according to both Genesis in the Old Testament, and the Quaran. This is the cave purchased from Abimelech as a burial site. This is where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah’s bodies reside. This is a very holy place to both religions, Judaism and Islam, as well as to fundamentalist Christians. The biblical name for the Old Town of Hebron was Kiryat Arba. In 1968, the new Israeli settlement called Kiryat Arba was formed out of an abandoned military base to the east of Hebron. About 7500 mostly religious Israelis live in Kiryat Arba. There are daily pilgrimages to the Cave of Machpela as well as to the small Tomb of Abner that lies across from it. The emotional and religious import of Kiryat Arba is very strong. There had been a continuous Jewish presence in Hebron until the Arab massacre of 1929. Following the 1967 war, the Mayor of Hebron had apologized to the Jews for that and a similar round of killings in the late 1930s. A number of terrorist killings of Jewish residents have occurred in the new Kiryat Arba, as well as the infamous killing of twenty-nine worshiping Muslims by a physician from Kiryat Arba. Needless to say emotions run high over Kiryat Arba. A two-state solution must take account for the Jewish settlement as well as their right to worship at the Cave. Perhaps an independent small enclave internally ruled by Jewish law, but in all external relations ruled by Palestinian law might work.
Some Israeli Arab towns are close to the likely borders of a new Palestinian state. Some Israeli politicians have called for exchanging them for some of the land adjustments Israel will require. I am opposed to any measure that would change nationalities for citizens of Israel, many who work elsewhere in Israel, without their approval. But they should be given the option. There are many other local issues that will have to be resolved. But the biggest obstacles to a successful two-state solution are the religious and secular nationalists on Israel’s side, many of whom live in the settlements that would have to be dismantled, and the Islamist militants, largely connected to Hamas, and secular Jihadists, on the Palestinian side. Both sides will have to bend, but I believe the suggestions I have made here, can serve as a useful and pragmatic framework for a two-state solution. The path to achieve this is likely to be more rocky than the road to peace once a new state is established.